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The truth behind Pilane’s constitution uproar

The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) president, Advocate Sidney Pilane is fighting a bitter war to defeat his colleagues, Advocate Duma Boko of Botswana National Front (BNF) and Dumelang Saleshando of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) in the battle for the soul of the UDC.

The coalition party, which also comprise of the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) is at war with itself, the centre of dispute being accumulation of power by the involved leaders. In a new twist of events, BCP and BNF found themselves fighting against the axis of Pilane’s BMD as well as the BPP. The new warfare has been launched under the legality of the coalition constitution, which has caused what look likes an impending procreated battle.

The BNF and BCP leadership announced during their party conferences held during the presidential holidays that a new constitution, signed by only Boko and Saleshando was submitted to the Registrar of Societies. This has however been contested by the other contracting partners, BMD and BPP. Part of the objection by the duo is that the constitution submitted by Boko and Saleshando is not what has been agreed during the Negotiation Stream and Upper Negotiation Stream. There has also been a dispute on whether the talks were taking place between BCP and the UDC or it was between BCP and other three coalition partners.

BOKO/SALESHANDO CONSTITUTION

The constitution submitted by Boko and Saleshando is an amended version of what was agreed by the negotiation streams including the upper stream. The amendments came about following the contested UDC February 2018 congress held at Boipuso.
The amendments made to the initial constitution delivered by the negotiation team include; creating one Vice President position, as well as restoring the powers of sitting president as provided for by the republic’s constitution when UDC is in power.

Other provisions, in the constitution submitted by Boko include giving the UDC president power to make unilateral decisions such as expelling a member of the UDC from the coalition as well as the power to repossesses constituencies from contracting parties for re-distribution. This submission of the constitution, which observers said it will deal decisively with Pilane, was followed by the resolutions of the two parties to reclaim constituencies allocated to BMD, a contracting partner expect the one held 

BMD/BPP CONSTITUTION

The constitution submitted by BMD and BPP to the register of societies is the one delivered by the negotiation streams, but without the input of the disputed congress. The constitution recognizes that the four contracting partners are equal members and sets out how the coalition will behave when in power with regards to the exercise of the executive. The constitution is clear that once UDC wins power, the country should immediately go through constitutional review that will see what the party envisages become part of the national constitution.

These powers in essence include, a president with curtailed powers. The power will be vested in what is called President’s Executive Council to comprise all the president of coalition partners. Article 11 .5  indicate: ‘The executive authority of the Republic of Botswana shall, when the UDC is in power, vest in the President’s Executive Council, which authority shall be exercised jointly.

This power will include the power to appoint cabinet, head of public service, permanent secretaries, ambassadors, Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chief Justice and other senior members in the public services. The constitution also express clearly that president of the UDC, shall be the State president, while Fist Vice President, one occupied currently by Pilane would be Deputy President, while the Secretary General of the UDC would Second Vice Presidents of Botswana. The BPP, which occupies the chairperson position, is guaranteed the most senior position in cabinet. The power to appoint cabinet minister is also taken away from the presidency and given to the executive council.

WHAT PILANE FEARS

If Boko and Saleshando’s submitted constitution see the green light, Pilane would lose his power within the UDC and in the future government of the coalition wins power. What currently obtains is that BCP and BNF are looking at giving Pilane and his BMD a non-deal by reclaiming all his constituencies except two where it is incumbent. This will strip Pilane off bargaining power within the party and leaving his influence in the affairs of the UDC insignificant. 

Secondly, a proposed one VP constitution will compel the contracting partners to convene a congress where either Pilane or Saleshando will be given the post. As things stand, Saleshando undisputed favourite to take the crown, which would essentially leave Pilane in the lurch. 

Pilane also does not want constitution proposed by his two colleagues because it will effectively give power to the UDC Congress as opposed to UDC NEC as Pilane hoped for in his constitution. In Pilane’s view, congress is not necessary because UDC is just an electoral arrangement and the true power should lies with the NEC. Pilane currently has the support of BPP NEC as well as Boko, who has been protecting him for some time now. Boko has made it clear that he is not in favour of anything that would break the UDC.

DUMELANG SALESHANDO PERSPECTIVE

I have hitherto refused to comment on the controversy that has been sparked by the submission of the UDC constitution to the Registrar of Societies. It is possible that some may interpret my silence to be a tacit admission of guilt to all the claims by the leaders of BPP and BMD on why the constitution should not have been submitted for registration. I still do not see the need to respond comprehensively at this stage and allow the leader of the UDC as the chief spokesperson space to address the issues raised by our colleagues.

For the benefit of BCP members and supporters, to whom I remain accountable, I just want to make the following 3 points clear;

1. The BCP in 2016 entered into negotiations with the UDC. The UDC (BPP, BNF and BMD) decided that they will not negotiate as separate entities but as a single unit under the leadership of Comrade Duma Boko. The stream that negotiated the constitution had six BCP representatives while the UDC also had six. Claims that each of the four parties had two representatives are false, there were two parties to the negotiations each represented by 6 people.

2. It was agreed that the final decision makers on all issues shall be the presidents of the UDC and the BCP. This point has been made by none other than Boko in the numerous meetings we addressed nationwide last year and never refuted by any member of the UDC until this month. When we signed the agreement on by-elections between the UDC and BCP, it was only signed by myself for the BCP and Boko for the UDC. It was for the same reason that the 2 of us signed off the constitution for submission to the Registrar of Societies.

3. Both UDC and BCP agreed to subject the constitution to congress scrutiny and approval by our members. Both sides knew that some of their proposals may be rejected by congress. The two presidency model for the UDC was a brainchild of the BCP leadership but this proposal was shot down by congress. That is how democracy works, the voice of the membership has to be respected.

It is has been difficult for me to understand why people who left the BDP because of a leader who did not respect congress decisions want to propose that a committee of 16 people (UDC NEC) should have powers over congress. Strange, very strange…
The position of the 2018 BCP congress is that the UDC should be fixed as it is clearly broken, broken by all of us who are its members. If it cannot be fixed, it must be reconfigured urgently as we are running out of time. Not fixing it will amount to PLAYING FIDDLE WHILE ROME BURNS

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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